Starbucks and the start of the Fairtrade debate

Starbucks have announced that all espresso-based drinks in its British and Irish coffee-houses will be made from Fairtrade coffee. Starbucks have also decided to embark on a multi-million pound billboard, poster and press campaign to reinforce its ethical values.

However Starbucks announcement  has sparked criticism of the Fairtrade Foundation for its proposed new administrative guidelines, which smaller roasters complain puts too heavy a paperwork burden on them.  The smaller roasters have always complained that the Foundation is over-bureaucratic – the Foundation in return always claims that its audit trail has to be absolutely accurate.

One small roaster in the England complained that big operations, such as Starbucks, can have dedicated staff to handling the Fairtrade paperwork, but that a tiny operation such as his cannot do so.

He said: “They are going to disqualify many small roasters from working with Fairtrade at all. Big roasters have the staff to handle this – but for the rest of us, this now gives the perverse situation of Fairtrade only wanting to work with little operators overseas, and big ones here.”

As these bigger companies make the transition to Fairtrade for it’s marketing value, we need to support the smaller companies to help them through the difficult time that is ahead. Just because it’s Fairtrade doesn’t mean that it is fair on everyone. Small business need support to continue doing the good work they set out doing long before the larger companies entered the market.  I suggest that now Fairtrade products are more readily available we look at who we are buying from unless we want to lose independent sellers from the high street entirely.

I also ask that we support smaller companies when they ask for more assistance from Fairtrade, so that they can continue to stock Fairtrade products.

Posted by Nina

Back to blog